When the Overwatch anniversary free weekend came around, I knew I had to give it a try. I was apprehensive at first, since I almost never play online games, and even when I do, they’re MMOs and I never play PvP. But still, I’d seen enough of Overwatch to know I loved how the characters looked, so I thought, why not?
The game is overwhelming at first. There’s an intro cinematic, which looks REALLY cool, but after that, the story is more or less tossed aside, and you never learn more about the world or the characters apart from the single sentence descriptions in the hero gallery.
Then there’s a tutorial, which is fine, but it teaches you how to run around and shoot, which even I knew how to do. And it teaches you these things with the most straightforward character in the game. After the short tutorial, that’s it. No tutorials for the other characters, no more story, nothing. There’s a miniscule practice arena where you can try out all the characters. There’s also matches against AI, which range in difficulty from ‘no idea how to play the game’ to ‘crushingly difficult.’
After exhausting the few training options, I was forced to try some matches against real people. I was in a party with hubby, and he was picking game modes for us, so he would explain to me what would happen in each mode. Unfortunately, the game never bothered to do the same, even when it was my first time playing a certain mode. As someone who has played single player games her entire life, I had, quite literally, never played a game of capture the flag, or defend the payload, or defend this area of the map. Without hubby’s instructions, I’m not sure I would have known what to do… Which explains a lot about the people we got teamed up with – they too seemed to have no idea how to play the various game modes, or how to work together. And we weren’t even being teamed up with other new players – these were players with high level accounts!
The saddest part of the game for me, however, is the disconnect from the amazing story and characters, and the rest of the game. Why is this elite team of heroes capturing flags, defending cars, or protecting this random area of the map? And why are we shooting our fellow Overwatch friends? Are we even friends? Why did I just get killed by someone who looks just like me? Even Serious Sam had a story mode. I want to play Overwatch’s story.
Finally, there’s the loot boxes. Considering Overwatch is a paid game – and a pretty expensive one at that – it has some very annoying similarities to a free to play game. Except all I can buy or earn in the game are loot boxes, which have random cosmetic items in them. So far I’ve opened about a dozen loot boxes, and I have unlocked tons of sprays and player icons, a handful of common skins, mostly for characters I don’t really like, some voice lines, and one dance emote. If I had purchased these loot boxes with real money, I would be bitterly disappointed. My average loot box contains sprays, player icons and voice lines. If I’m going to spend real money, I want to buy things I actually want. Like those cool new anniversary skins! Or the dance emotes! Preferably for characters I actually like to play.
My favourite thing as a newbie though? The practice arena that kicks you out if you’re idle for too long. Like when you’re trying to read the power descriptions for a character. (Which is a great way to encourage button mashing over reading, I guess…?)
For a company known for its amazing story-rich games (you know, Diablo, StarCraft, WoW…) and successful online games (WoW? Heroes of the Storm? Hearthstone?), Overwatch is a pretty weird game. If I had paid full price for it, I’d be pretty angry right now. Since I bought it on sale, I’m just kinda sad… It’s fun to hop in for a few rounds of shooting random people, but without some kind of story mode, maybe it’s not the right game for me.